Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.39

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has nominated Traditional craft of Naga motif weaving in Lao communities (No. 01973) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Naga is a mythical, serpent-like creature that lives in rivers. Lao people believe that Naga are ancestors that watch over them. To show their respect, they add Naga motifs to different objects, the most common of which is textiles through weaving. Naga motifs are woven by hand using a traditional wooden loom. The motif is created during the weaving process; it is neither embroidered nor printed. The patterns can be woven in silk, silk organza and cotton, and traditionally the Naga’s body is woven in white or a solid colour, with bright colours used for the crest to symbolize the creature’s supernatural powers. The centuries-old practice is transmitted informally within families, and in vocational centres, cultural centres and universities. Textiles with the Naga design are used throughout a person’s life. For instance, Naga motifs are used on newborn blankets and carrying cloths to protect the infants from evil. Adults wear the motif in their daily lives and for important ceremonies or official events. The Naga motif is also woven into the couple’s wedding attire to bless them and bring prosperity. Many women prepare Naga motifs to wear when they die, believing the powerful image will send them to heaven.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The element is widely practiced in Laos and is associated with knowledge of nature, as it involves the use of materials such as silk for weaving and plants to create fabric dyes. It includes traditional knowledge and skills that have been passed down for centuries. Items that feature the motif are used in everyday life and in formal or ritual events. The weaving is performed primarily by women in Tai-Kadai, and Mon-Khmer-speaking communities in Laos. Garments that include the Naga motif are worn at differing stages of a person’s life, from birth to adulthood, and even as a shroud. Parents play an important role in transmitting the element, especially among women. However, vocational centers and educational institutions also provide training courses. The element’s social and cultural meanings include showing respect to ancestors and providing protection to the people who wear or carry a depiction of Naga. There are also a series of rituals linked to the element. 

R.2:   Locally, inscription would increase awareness about living heritage among communities while reinforcing government policies that support handicraft centres. Nationally, inscription would lead to documentation and publications to raise the visibility of the element. Internationally, there would be increased visibility of the element via forums, seminars and workshops. Inscription would also increase dialogue among practitioners and reinforce respect for diversity.

R.3:   Many individuals and non-profit organizations have been active in ensuring the viability of the element. A series of collaborations have been established, focusing on marketing, craft exhibitions, research, documentation and advocacy as means of safeguarding the element. The State has supported these efforts through recognition and awards, publications and museum exhibitions, among others. The proposed safeguarding measures were developed after extensive consultation with weavers, researchers and organizations, and include: (a) collection, identification, research, documentation and display measures; (b) preservation and protection measures; (c) promotion and enhancement measures; and (d) revitalization measures. The State will support the proposed measures through its institutes, funding, stakeholder coordination and promotion.

R.4:   The preparation of the nomination is the result of a joint effort between the State Party and various stakeholders, including the practitioners, local governments, civil society groups, non-governmental organizations, entrepreneurs, experts, researchers and academics. The nomination was endorsed following interministerial meetings and roundtable discussions. Various letters of consent were submitted as evidence of the free, prior and informed consent of the communities.

  1. Further considers that, from the information included in the file and the information provided by the submitting State through the dialogue process, the nomination satisfies the following criterion for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.5:   The element is listed in an inventory published in a book titled ‘Figure du Naga dans le tissage Lao-Tai’ (2020), which is recognized by the government as the legal description of the element. The State explains that, as it develops its legal structures, such inventories have been legalized. The Fine Arts and Heritage department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism and the Lao Handicraft Association were assigned as Secretary of the President of the National Committee for World Heritage responsible for maintaining and updating those inventories. The annexed document shows an extract of photos and short descriptions of the element’s features. The information was provided by the communities and stakeholders concerned. The inventory is updated annually and involves the submission of comments and adjustments from the communities concerned. This process was updated in April 2022.

  1. Decides to inscribe Traditional craft of Naga motif weaving in Lao communities on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Recalls the importance of using vocabulary appropriate to the spirit of the Convention and of avoiding terms such as ‘uniqueness’.